22. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the remedy there will be for 14,700 persons wrongly convicted of road traffic offences due to errors in Garda records; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15753/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I would like to emphasise at the outset that I have met with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in the past days and have communicated my very serious concerns in relation to the significant road traffic enforcement errors that have come to light following the completion of extensive internal audits by An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána has confirmed that it has put solutions in place to deal with the procedural and practice issues that have been detected to ensure that such errors do not recur. Specifically, I have been assured by An Garda Síochána that a permanent and comprehensive IT solution is now in place to cover the majority of issues identified and An Garda Síochána is satisfied that the errors that occurred cannot be repeated.
Insofar as the 14,700 people incorrectly convicted of road traffic offences in court are concerned, An Garda Síochána is establishing a dedicated support helpline for members of the public with queries in relation to their case. An Garda Síochána is also writing to all affected members of the public, explaining what has happened and outlining the solution to rectify the situation. An Garda Síochána has indicated that it has been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions and Courts Service that these 14,700 cases must be brought back before the Courts at Circuit Court level with a view to requesting that the erroneous convictions can be set aside. An Garda Síochána has established a dedicated team to this end and is liaising with the Court Services to expedite this process. As such, members of the public affected by the road traffic enforcement errors referred to are requested to await the aforementioned correspondence from An Garda Síochána which will provide further clarification on the matter.
I want to say that it is matter of great regret to me that anyone should be summonsed to court incorrectly, with all of the consequences that follow for individuals. It is absolutely critical now that these mistakes are resolved and the necessary remedial actions put in place.
The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn. The Garda Commissioner has been in direct contact with the Policing Authority in relation to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will have an independent professional audit undertaken of the steps taken to resolve the issues.
I welcome the fact that the focus of the Authority's next public meeting with the Garda Commissioner will be on road traffic enforcement. This public meeting will be held on 27 April 2017 and will provide a most timely opportunity for An Garda Síochána to engage with the Authority and the general public on these key procedural and practice issues that are now before us. The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these.
I will continue to maintain close contact with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in relation to these matters.